Althusser’s Lesson by Jacques Rancière, Emiliano Battista (Translator): reviewed.

Jacques Rancière wrote an irate denunciation of the work of his erstwhile mentor Louis Althusser in the aftermath of the political earthquakes of Paris and Prague. Althusser had pursued a subtle course, remaining within the French Communist Party but managing to produce autonomous theory simultaneously. His legacy in relation to the theory of Ideological State Apparatuses is a thought-provoking one which repays reading today.

For Rancière, Althusserianism was a flawed compromise. He alleged that it was not revolutionary when it mattered. It was theory without practice: it was politics without philosophy. For the leftist militant, “cut off from revolutionary practice, there is no revolutionary theory that is not transformed into its opposite.”

Perhaps Rancière was simply too close to his subject in time and space to develop a balanced perspective. It may well be that there is an element of ‘rate my professor’ about the text. Nonetheless, the attempted demolition of structuralist Marxism makes for better reading than much postmodernist verbiage, for example. There are sharp points of conflict, and words are used as weapons. In these times, the relevance of this work cannot be disputed.

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